Applying to College as a Homeschool Student: What to Know

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, more families have chosen to forgo the traditional K-12 classroom experience and homeschool their children.

But given the nature of homeschooling, in which the specifics of curriculum, class time and assignments can vary widely from one family to another, it can be challenging for homeschooled students to demonstrate college readiness to admissions officers.

“For students applying from public or private high schools, we are able to have an understanding of the high school and how the student may compare to their peers,” says Rachel Morales, the director of admissions at the University of Southern Maine. “But for a homeschool student, we don’t have that.”

On the other hand, being homeschooled can help applicants stand out.

“A homeschool student will naturally bring a very different experience to the table,” Lori Greene, vice president for enrollment management at Butler University in Indiana, wrote in an email. “Many universities look for different backgrounds and experiences to enhance the overall educational experience and community aspect.”

As homeschooled students prepare to apply to college, experts recommend the following tips:

— Understand admissions requirements.

— Provide context in your application.

— Take community college courses.

— Avoid letters of recommendation from family.

— Build a network of support.

[Read: Avoid These Big College Application Mistakes.]

Understand Admissions Requirements

Every college has its own admissions requirements for homeschooled students. Some want students to fill out a supplemental form detailing their learning experiences, while others request official test scores, like the SAT or ACT. It’s important to do your research, Greene says.

Butler, for instance, “practices holistic admissions and each candidate is brought through this review process,” she wrote in an email. “For homeschooled students, the admissions office specifically has a question asking about the structure and mission of their particular homeschool program.”

Provide Context in Your Application

While most colleges don’t have a separate application for homeschooled students, they may require additional academic information. Families should be prepared to provide a detailed syllabus for each class and explain the grade equivalency. If the classes were not taught by the parent, list the educational provider.

“Any college will raise an eyebrow at a homeschool transcript regardless of who issues it,” says Yvonne Padilla, principal of Thrive Home School Academy in Colorado, an enrichment program for homeschool families. She recommends students create a robust portfolio — including writing samples, exams and other work — to demonstrate what they’ve learned.

[Read: How Colleges Weigh High School Extracurriculars]

Applicants should also explain any extracurricular activities they participate in. “Schools want well-rounded young adults. Just like for any high school student, they want to see extracurriculars and volunteerism,” Padilla says.

Additionally, provide context as to why your family decided to opt out of a public or private education experience.

Athena Lao, head consultant at Admissionado, a college admissions counseling firm, says to explain “why this particular option suits your academic needs and how it will help you achieve what you want to achieve.”

Take Community College Courses

Experts advise homeschooled students to take advantage of dual enrollment courses at local community colleges. These classes allow students to earn both high school and college credit, while demonstrating their readiness for college-level work.

“That can give us some really good information about how they might function in a classroom setting, along with their homeschool work and what their activities are,” Morales says.

Avoid Letters of Recommendation From Family

A recommendation letter should not be written by an applicant’s parents, even if they are instructors, according to many experts.

“I think it’s a challenge for families to explain what their child has accomplished without sounding like you are the overbearing mom or dad who’s just really proud of their kid,” Lao says.

The person writing the recommendation should know the student well enough to “attest to their academic abilities and interests along with any personal characteristics that may stand out,” Greene says. That could be a professor from a community college course, a coach or an employer.

[Read: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for College.]

Build a Network of Support

Unlike public and private high school students, homeschooled students don’t have counselors on site to address concerns or questions about the college application process. But admissions offices can serve as a resource for students.

Additionally, there are many homeschool associations and online groups that families can join to share advice with one another.

“A lot of times, homeschooling parents are not just working with one kid. They have a multiple kids that they are going through the process with, so they have great insights,” Lao says. “Even though homeschooling can seem like an isolating process, there’s definitely strong virtual, national and even international communities that students and families can look to if they just do a little Google searching.”

More from U.S. News

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In-State vs. Out-of-State Colleges: Where Should I Go?

How to Apply to College for Free

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